Everyday Health is Out to Dominate Media via Video, Apps, and Social

12/8/11Follow @arleneweintraub

When dot-com entrepreneurs Benjamin Wolin and Michael Keriakos founded Everyday Health in 2002, everyone thought they were nuts. Their idea was to take well-known offline brands in the health industry and give them an online presence—a strategy that during the depths of the dot-com bust seemed mighty risky. “When we told people we wanted to start an online-content company they said things like, ‘The Internet is going to go out of business,” recalls Wolin (pictured at right), CEO of New York-based Everyday Health. “I said, ‘Well the Internet’s not exactly a business, but I get your point.’”

Wolin and Keriakos persevered, and eventually won the digital rights to some of the best-known names in health. Everyday Health now operates the websites for more than 35 big names, including South Beach Diet, exercise gurus Denise Austin and Jillian Michaels, and the ultra-popular pregnancy series What to Expect. Today Everyday Health attracts 28 million unique visitors a month across all its sites, making it one of the top providers of online health information, and it generates over $100 million in annual revenues.

But Wolin and Keriakos are well aware that if they want to stay on top of the digital-health world, they have to move themselves—and all their brands—beyond the bread-and-butter website. “When I think about what is going to drive the future of our business, the one thing that hasn’t changed is that consumers want health information from high quality brands,” Wolin says. “But what has changed is that the delivery device is now as much about mobile and video as it is about dot-com.”

So about two years ago, Everyday Health embarked on a multi-pronged strategy to expand its presence across every form of media, from the old (television) to the new (Facebook). Many of those doubters from a decade ago likely took notice on September 12, when the company recruited ABC News veteran producer Paul Slavin to run Everyday Health’s new video studio, which is producing a variety of programs, including a syndicated Saturday morning series it created in partnership with leading TV distributor Litton Entertainment.

Then, on October 13, the company announced that it had been selected by YouTube to launch an original online channel called “Everyday Health TV: Content to Change Your Life.” It’s all a testimony to the company’s ability to adapt to changing times, says Habib Kairouz, a managing partner at Rho Ventures, which invested in Wolin and his team back whenother VCs thought their idea was a non-starter. “They have evolved the company in a way that follows where the market is going,” Kairouz says. “Video has become an important component of content consumption. We’re very excited about this company’s growth prospects.”

Everyday Health TV is a half-hour program that features feel-good stories about health topics. Recent episodes spotlighted trained dogs who help people suffering from epilepsy, a mentoring program to help girls build their self-esteem, and high school students raising awareness of breast cancer. Everyday Health users can view clips from the show online.

Everyday Health also has 25 mobile apps on the market, and according to Wolin, its mobile traffic is growing 300 percent a year. “Two years ago we had no mobile apps. We were admittedly behind the curve,” he says. “We knew we had to focus on it.”

Everyday Health has also been working on boosting its social-media presence. The company has given all its brands a strong presence on Facebook, Wolin says. The brands’ individual websites and apps also provide opportunities for users to communicate with each other. “Social just amplifies everything we do,” Wolin says. “Take pregnancy and parenting,” for example. “When you’re pregnant, you want to get advice from an expert caregiver. But you also want to get advice from other moms that are at the sandbox.”

Everyday Health is strengthening its own brand, too. It has its own website and app. And in April, it replaced AOL Health, becoming the exclusive health-content provider for AOL. “When a consumer is looking for health information on AOL, they get driven to us,” Wolin says. “That has brought a significant amount of traffic.”

The company’s business model continues to evolve. In the early days, revenues came mostly from subscriptions. Today 75 percent of sales come from advertising. With so many well-known brands, Everyday Health is now able to offer what Kairouz refers to as “targetable reach”—the ability for companies to serve up ads to very specific audiences, such as diabetics, pregnant women, or people trying to lose weight.

That has also given Everyday Health the ability to recruit brands that want to solely take advantage of its advertising network. The company now secures ads for MayoClinic.com and Drugstore.com, for example, even though it doesn’t operate those sites. “We went to those brands and persuaded them that we could help them better monetize their sites if they were part of our network,” Wolin says.

Wolin and Keriakos—whose early experience included working at Beliefnet, a dot-com that was bought by News Corp. for an undisclosed sum in 2007—no longer consider their competition to be Web-based companies. In the early days, Wolin recalls, they paid close attention to their NYC neighbor, WebMD (NASDAQ: WBMD). But not anymore. “WebMD is a great health encyclopedia,” Wolin says. “They have a great private portal business, which is really a benefits-management tool. That’s not the direction we’re driving in. We’re broader. We cut across all parts of the health spectrum.”

So who does Everyday Health look up to now? Mass-media giants like Scripps and Discovery, Wolin says. “Can we create the health network of the future? We can if we have great offerings across the health spectrum,” he says. “I envision us as the ESPN of health.”

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